In about two years, Ireland leaders expect to see a referendum vote on whether to continue protecting unborn babies or to legalize abortion in their nation.
Now, it looks like Pope Francis could be visiting Ireland not long before the possible vote, and some people are upset about the influence that the religious leader could have on the decision.
The Irish Times reports Minister of Tourism Shane Ross said he is concerned about the timing of the pope’s visit. The Catholic Church confirmed to the newspaper on Monday that the pope will visit Ireland during the World Meeting of Families in August 2018 and meet with Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Ross said there may be “better times” for the pope to visit rather than near the time of a possible referendum vote on abortion.
“I simply think that maybe there are better times to come than in the middle of a controversial political matter in which he might get embroiled,” Ross said.
Ross added that Pope Francis’s visit likely would be very good for tourism, and he would be “very, very welcome in that context.”
Other government leaders do not share Ross’s concerns. According to RTE:
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, meanwhile, has said she is not concerned about a visit by Pope Francis in 2018 possibly coinciding with a referendum on the Eight Amendment, which deals with the right to life of the unborn with equal regard to the right to life of the mother.
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Ms McDonald said she hoped the Pope would visit both sides of the border, adding that his visit would be appropriate and welcome.
Regarding the Eighth Amendment, Ms McDonald said it was crucial that the debate was informed and people were provided with information.
She added people have religious beliefs and are entitled to them, but she stated it is also understood that in a republic, the law is the law that caters for everyone.
Catholic priests and bishops in Ireland have been strong advocates for unborn babies in the on-going abortion debate, and Pope Francis likely would echo this during his visit in 2018. The pope frequently has described abortion as a product of our “throw-away culture” and urged Catholics worldwide to be compassionate advocates for unborn babies.
During his visit to the United States in 2015, Pope Francis called on U.S. Catholic bishops to protect “innocent victims” from abortion.
“… at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters,” Pope Francis said. “It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent.”
Ireland is facing global pressure from the United Nations and pro-abortion groups, backed by some of the world’s richest men, to legalize abortion on demand by repealing its Eighth Amendment.
The constitutional amendment protects unborn babies’ right to life and prohibits abortions except when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. Pro-lifers estimate that the constitutional amendment has saved approximately 100,000 unborn babies’ lives from abortion in Ireland.